Van Ness opposes NSP pay raise

JaNice Van Ness, Rockdale County commissioner

JaNice Van Ness, Rockdale County commissioner

CONYERS -- Commissioner JaNice Van Ness voiced her opposition to ratifying a contract revision for the county's Neighborhood Stabilization Program that results in a $16,000 raise for its administrator.

Van Ness said she would likely vote against the ratification during the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners work session Tuesday night. She said it didn't seem right for a contractor to get what amounts to a 30 percent pay raise while county employees have not seen a pay raise in over four years.

"My concern with this, and I did speak to the vendor, is that in light of the economy and that we haven't been able to give our own county employees raises, it's hard for me to justify a $16,000 raise," she said. "I know it's grant funds, and I know it's 100 percent reimbursable, but you also have to look at how it falls in line with responsibilities of department heads who are paid the same."

Finance Director Roselyn Miller presented the change order to the contract with Tanesha Lanier as the county's NSP coordinator for last year. Lanier was in line to be paid $52,000 for work done in 2011. The change was made considering the extra duties Lanier had done for the NSP, Miller said.

"What we've found that in 2009, when we contracted with this vendor is that we were looking for administrator duties; however, with the expertise of this vendor we were able to add more responsibilities such as open houses, she conducts home buyer seminars and also she shows our inventory when the asset management companies are not available," Miller told the commissioners.

Rockdale County was awarded a $2.7 million grant in March 2009 as part of the federal government's economic stimulus money to purchase, rehabilitate and sell houses in neighborhoods hardest hit by the recent wave of foreclosures.

Lanier is an independent contractor who was hired shortly after the grant award. Her job is to oversee the rehabilitation process among property management firms hired to do the work, match people with houses and coordinate homeowner and personal finance counseling required by the grant.

Lanier was hired originally at a pay rate of $20 per hour, not to exceed 40 hours per week.

Van Ness said she had no problems with Lanier's work and believes she is highly qualified for the job. In her closing comments Tuesday, Van Ness noted the vote was for ratification and not approval. Van Ness said she wished she and Commissioner Oz Nesbitt had been consulted on the contract change. The item comes up for a vote during the BOC's next regular meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The Rockdale NSP, also referred to as the Revitalization of Communities (R.O.C.), has been successful in rehabilitating foreclosed houses and selling them to qualified buyers.

In November, the county announced it had received an additional $1 million grant to continue funding the county's NSP. The grant originates from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and is administered in Georgia by the Department of Community Affairs.

The program offers up to $14,500 in Homebuyer Assistance plus 5 percent closing costs for qualified homebuyers.

To date, the NSP has sold 25 homes, with new inventory expected this month. The county has a goal for the NSP to rehabilitate and resell 40 houses in 2012.